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Chronicle editorial suffers from chronic lapses in logic
by Bud Green
Thursday Sep 16th, 2010 9:42 AM
It's OK if the San Francisco Chronicle wants to oppose Prop. 19, but don't play loose with the facts in the process.
This San Francisco Chronicle editorial opposing Prop. 19 contains a barn-sized factual error or two, but its major flaw is a type of marijuana myopia that can see potential problems with legalization while turning a blind eye to the deadly consequences of cannabis prohibition. Let's review:

"Even Californians who support the legalization of marijuana should be extremely wary of Proposition 19. This is a seriously flawed initiative with contradictions and complications that would invite legal chaos and, more than likely, fail to deliver its promised economic benefits.

"We agree with the architects of Prop. 19 that the "war on drugs" -- especially as it applies to marijuana -- has been an abject failure. Laws against personal possession are widely ignored, they are enforced unevenly and they divert law enforcement and the courts from more pressing priorities. The result is a flourishing underground economy that allows marijuana to escape taxation and regulation while bestowing profits on criminal enterprises.

"If this were simply a referendum on the status quo, and the ability of a 21-or-older Californian to possess an ounce or less for personal use, it might be an easy "yes" vote. It is not. It is a law that goes too far in endowing rights for the cultivation, possession and use of marijuana."

OK, let's take a deep breath. On the one hand, the Chron opines that the drug war is an utter failure and that criminal enterprises flourish in the black market. In the next graf, it suggests that legal possession thus makes sense but that small-scale home cultivation and retail sales of cannabis -- two potent tools against the black market -- are two steps too far. Hmmm...

"Among the specific problems:

"Workplace: A nondiscrimination clause would prevent employers from firing or disciplining workers who used marijuana unless an employer could prove that job performance was impaired. Pre-employment testing would be banned."

Factual error No. 1, and it's a big one. Nothing in Prop. 19 changes labor laws to prevent pre-employment drug testing, and it explicitly states that all existing employer rights shall be retained. What the Chronicle might have said instead is that Prop. 19 would force a re-examination of corporate drug-testing mania and whether it's fair to discriminate against a large part of the workforce. Impairment should be the only standard that permits employer drug testing, in my view, but that's a debate for a different time and a different law; it's simply not applicable to Prop. 19.

"Conflicts with federal law abound. For example, the feds require operators of planes, trains, trucks and buses to be removed from their jobs if they test positive for any narcotic." And you can expect such regulations will remain in force, especially as they apply to transportation and public safety occupations.

"Tax and regulation: The measure establishes no state controls over distribution and product standards; it does nothing to help cure the state's budget deficit. A seriously gridlocked Legislature, which kept its distance from the medical marijuana mess, would have to decide whether to take on such issues."

Correction: It's prohibition that does nothing to cure the state's budget deficit. Prop. 19 isn't a cure-all, but a few hundred million is better than nothing with the potential for much more as legal markets mature. As for the state Legislature, if they don't like Prop. 19 they'd better get off their dead asses and give AB 2254 a fresh look. Voters tend to take things into their own hands when lawmakers don't, and we'll be having this same debate in 2012 if Prop. 19 fails.

"In the meantime, Prop. 19 allows the 58 counties and hundreds of cities to come up with their own taxation and regulatory schemes. In this critical element of legalization, Prop. 19 is more akin to the chaotic approach taken with medical marijuana than to the heavily taxed-and-regulated treatment of alcohol."

I've never heard such doublespeak as the "chaos" label applied to local regulation. Local politicians like to whine loudly about state and federal mandates that tie their hands and make their jobs more difficult. But when it comes to medical marijuana, they start whining that federal law reigns supreme and/or that the state has dropped the ball. Politics is never pretty, and local medipot laws are a reflection of that fact. But they're also a pretty good indicator that local government can get the job done, unlike their state and federal counterparts.

"Cultivation: Property owners throughout the state would have a right to establish a 5-by-5-foot plot of cannabis plants for personal consumption - a right that could not be usurped by local ordinance. Anyone familiar with the stench and potential height of marijuana plants might pause at the thought of their proliferation in the neighborhood."

It's not a given that local governments couldn't ban cultivation; just take a look at the cultivation ordinances taking shape that limit or ban Prop. 215 grows. More likely it will become a zoning issue, sorta like chickens. Chickens are legal to possess and cultivate under state law, but they're generally not allowed in densely populated areas because of nuisance noise and odors. CCRs offer another option.

"Transit: The proposition does not affect current laws against driving while impaired by cannabis, but it does allow passengers to smoke in a moving vehicle, proponents acknowledge. This is another element of 219 that that defies common sense."

Smoking while driving is an invitation for a DUI, and there's nothing preventing the Legislature from addressing this in follow-up legislation, just as it did with SB 420 to clarify Prop. 215. Plenty of people smoke and drive under existing law, sad to say. Prop. 19 revenues could potentially be earmarked for driving safety campaigns or law enforcement. Don't just throw up your hands, people.

"The experience of Proposition 215, the 1996 initiative that legalized the use of medical marijuana, illustrates the danger of voting for a concept instead of the language of a ballot measure. The loosely drawn Prop. 215 continues to be a nightmare for many communities. Los Angeles is trying to shut down hundreds of dispensaries. Even the laid-back coastal towns of Santa Cruz and Arcata found themselves putting moratoriums on new dispensaries."

Another pot shot at Prop. 215, which still gets no respect 14 years after its passage. Why that law gets blamed for the fast rise of dispensaries, instead of the federal policy that effectively banned them for so long, is a mystery to me. It would be far more accurate to blame the state Legislature for failing to take leadership on this issue, leaving cities and counties to twist in the wind.

"Fresno County supervisors this week voted to ban outdoor medical marijuana gardens after four reports of gunfire -- including a fatal shooting by a homeowner who claimed an intruder was out to steal his pot.

"If Prop. 19 were to pass, such outdoor gardens would not be limited to ostensible medical-marijuana patients. They could show up in any backyard, in any town -- and local governments would be powerless to stop them."

Again, it's not a given that local governments couldn't set reasonable limits on cultivation, but this is where the Chron misses the big picture. Small-scale local cultivation is preferable to large-scale illegal grows on public lands that enrich drug cartels and wreak environmental havoc. It also goes to the heart of the profit incentive that attracts the criminal element. By increasing the supply of marijuana grown by Californians for Californians, the demand for illicit pot drops along with the profit incentive. Only when home cultivation becomes commonplace will pot gardens cease to be targets.

"Don't vote the slogan or the concept. Inspect the details. No on 19."

Except for the last part, I agree. Inspect the details. Think about local vs. state or federal control of legal cannabis, and what types of tools are needed to fight drug violence. Prop. 19 is a better deal than the Chron editorial board suggests.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

product standards? what standards are in place now?

geez, we're not talking about a chemically engineered pill here

sounds like the Chron basically supports a continuation of the long-failed drug war, despite their pusillanimous claims to the contrary
by .......
Thursday Sep 16th, 2010 2:48 PM
boycott chron sportswriters. henry ''steak dinner in arizona'' schulmann. the baseball weriters must have a ''steak dinner''. even to non vegetarian, that is unnecessary to brag about your ''steak dinner'' after covering ballgame. lots of ''stoners'' listen to sports games. but may reconsider if this is not passed.
An August 2010 poll is discussed at

It shows Prop 19 leading with 50% for and 40% against Prop 19 among likely voters. That is good, but still risky. A serious effort has to be made to push the 18-29 year old voters to the polls and to push all workingclass voters to the polls, 2 groups that are not considered "likely" voters. The regular voters are overwhelmingly property owners who make over $100,000 a year, are over age 40 and are 70% white in a state where whites are a minority and 50% of the schoolchildren are Latino.

It is not surprising that the SF Chronicle is against Prop 19. It is a mouthpiece of the capitalist class that benefits from the prison-industrial complex which (1) terrorizes the workingclass so we do not organize to get rid of the capitalist profit motive and (2) benefits from having drugs be illegal as this is the primary way warm bodies are fed to the prison-profit machine. Also against Prop 19 are Democratic and Republican candidates for governor, Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman, Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Republican candidate for US Senate Carly Fiorina, San Francisco Mayor and candidate for Lt. Governor, Democrat Gavin Newsom, San Francisco District Attorney Democrat Kamala Harris. Please do not vote for these evil people.
The Republican Party opposes Prop 19 while the the Democratic Party is officially "neutral" but of course, they cannot be neutral on a major political issue.

Also opposed is Democrat Obama's drug czar Gil Kerlikowski. See:

Peace & Freedom Party and the Green Party support Prop 19.
Here are other endorsements of Prop 19:

Law Enforcement
•National Black Police Association
•San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara (Ret.)
•Seattle Police Chief and San Diego Deputy Police Chief Norm Stamper (Ret.)
•Former Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Stephen Downing
•Former Los Angeles Police Department Sergeant and Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney William John Cox
•Former Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriff David Sinclair
•Former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff MacKenzie Allen
•Former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff Jeff Studdard
•Former Sutter County Deputy Sheriff Nate Bradley
•Former Yolo County Resident Deputy Sheriff Danny Maynard
•Humboldt County Sheriff’s Captain Stephen Cobine (Ret.)
•Orange County Superior Court Judge James P. Gray (Ret.)
•San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan (Ret.)
•Former Senior Humboldt County Deputy District Attorney and Prosecutor Jeffrey Schwartz
•Former Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney and California Administrative Law Judge Mike Schmier
•Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Walter Clark (Ret.)
•Former Orange County Senior Reserve Park Ranger L. Lawrence Baird
•Oakland City Attorney John Russo
•Former Community Prosecutor James Anthony, Oakland City Attorney’s Office
•Los Angeles Police Department Narcotics Detective David Doddridge (Ret.)
•Former San Jose Police Department Narcotics Detective Russ Jones
•Former Los Angeles Senior Police Specialist Walter McKay
•United States Air Force Security Forces Officer John Darker, Anderson, CA
•Former United States Military Police Officer Dr. Nina Graves, Santa Barbara, CA
•United States Navy Officer and Intelligence Specialist Larry Talley (Ret.)
•California Correctional Peace Officer William Baldwin (Ret.)
•California Correctional Peace Officer Madeline Martinez (Ret.)
•Mohave County Deputy Probation Officer Joe Miller (Ret.)
•Former Lakeport Police Officer Rick Erickson
•Former San Francisco Police Officer Bill Dake
•Former Stanton Police Officer Jerry Ross
•Former Torrance Police Officer Kyle Kazan
•Former Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General John Amabile, Tisbury, MA
•Atlanta, Georgia State’s Attorney Jay Fisher
•Former American Samoa Attorney General’s Office Chief Prosecutor and Municipal Prosecutor for Washington Cities Jim Doherty
•New Jersey State Police Detective Lieutenant Jack Cole (Ret.)
•New Hampshire State Police Officer Paul Mac Lean (Ret.)
•Retired Bristol, Vermont Police Chief and Saint Albans, Vermont Police Chief Tim Datig
•Former Deputy Sheriff Leo E. Laurence, J.D., Central Missouri
•Former Reserve Deputy Sheriff and Corrections Officer Dwayne Sessom, Lawton, Oklahoma
•Former Davis County, Utah Deputy Constable Bret Black
•Retired Washington Superior Court Judge David Nichols
•Retired Police Captain Peter Christ, Syracuse, New York.
•Former Spokane, Washington Police Department Narcotics Investigator Jay Fleming
•Former Corrections Official Michael Gilbert, San Antonio, Texas
•Former Department of Corrections Sniper and K-9 Narcotics Dog Trainer Rusty White, Bridgeport, Texas
•National Black Police Association Executive Director and former Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Officer Ronald Hampton
•Former Baltimore Police Officer Peter Moskos
•Burlington, Ontario, Canada Law Enforcement Officer Alison Myrden (Ret.)
•Law Enforcement Officer Tony Ryan (Ret.), Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Physicians and Doctors
•United States Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, MD (Ret.)
•Dr. Larry Bedard, Former President of the American College of Emergency Physicians*, Sausalito, CA
•Dr. Newton Harband, Retired Oncologist, Past President, Stanford Medical School Alumni Association*, San Rafael, CA
•Dr. Daniel Susott, MD, MPH, Medical Director, World Family Foundation*, San Francisco, CA
•Dr. Floyd Huen, MD, Board of Trustees, Alameda County Medical Center, Oakland, CA
•Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, State University of New York at Albany
•Dr. Lester Grinspoon, MD, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Norfolk, MA
•Dr. Julie Holland, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, NYU School of Medicine, New York
•Dr, Leonard Krivitsky, MD, DD, Addiction Medicine Specialist, Philadelphia, PA
•Dr. Frank H. Lucido, MD, Family Practitioner, Berkeley, CA
•Arthur M. Strosberg, Ph. D., Pharmaceutical Industry Consultant, Foster City, CA
•Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, MD, PhD, Seattle, WA
•Dr. Christopher Fichtner, MD, Hemet, CA
•Stephen Frye, M.D., Psychiatrist, Las Vegas, Nevada
Economists and Business Leaders
•Harvard Economist Jeffrey Miron
•Michael D. Whitty, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, University of San Francisco School of Business and Management
Elected Officials
•Congressman Pete Stark (CA-13)
•Congressman Dan Hamburg (CA-1) (Ret.)
•Congressman Pete McCloskey (CA-11) (Ret.)
•California State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (Ret.)
•California State Senator Mark Leno
•California State Senator Tom Hayden (Ret.)
•California State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano
•California State Assemblymember Hector De La Torre
•Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley
•Mendocino County Supervisor John Pinches
•San Francisco Supervisor David Campos
•San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi
•Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates
•Fairfax Vice Mayor Larry Bragman
•The Berkeley City Council
•The Oakland City Council
•The West Hollywood City Council
•Arcata City Councilmember Shane Brinton
•Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington
•Berkeley City Councilmember Darryl Moore
•Hayward City Councilmember Bill Quirk
•Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan
•Oakland City Councilmember Jean Quan
•Oakland City Councilmember Pat Kernighan
•Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid
•Oakland City Councilmember Nancy Nadel
•West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran
•Windsor Town Councilmember Debora Fudge
•Palm Springs Unified School District Board Member Justin Blake
•AC Transit Board President Rocky Fernandez
•East Bay Municipal Utility District Board President Doug Linney
•Water Replenishment District of Southern California Director Rob Katherman
•Modoc County Democratic Central Committee Chair Thomas Romero
•Alameda County Democratic Central Committee Member Edie Irons
•California Republican Party Delegate David LaTour
•California NAACP
•California Libertarian Party
•California Green Party
California Peace and Freedom Party
•California Young Democrats
•Republican Liberty Caucus
•ACLU of Northern California
•ACLU of Southern California
•ACLU of San Diego
•California 16th Assembly District Democrats
•Alameda County Democratic Party
•Butte County Democratic Party
•Los Angeles County Democratic Party
•Madera County Democratic Party
•Modoc County Democratic Party
•Monterey County Democratic Party
•Orange County Democratic Party
•Placer County Democratic Party
•San Francisco Democratic Party
•Siskiyou County Democratic Party
•Sonoma County Democratic Party
•Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley
•Latino Democrats of Stanislaus County
•Progressive Democrats of Stanislaus County
•Desert Stonewall Democrats of Palm Springs
•Culver City Democratic Club
•West Hollywood/Beverly Hills Democratic Club
•Irish American Democratic Club of San Francisco
•Democratic Women's Forum of San Francisco
•San Francisco Young Democrats
•Richmond District Democratic Club
•Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club
•Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club
•Potrero Hill Democratic Club
•Robert F. Kennedy Democratic Club
•Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club
•Valley Progressives
•Libertarian Party of Orange County
•Libertarian Party of Riverside County
•Humboldt Center for Constitutional Rights
•San Francisco for Democracy Political Action Committee
•San Francisco Women’s Political Committee
•The LA Gay & Lesbian Center
•NAACP Congress Against Racism & Corruption in Law Enforcement (CARCLE)
•William C. Velasquez Institute
•Latino Voters League
•A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing)
•Bay Area Chapter of Education Not Incarceration
•Idriss Stelley Action & Resource Center
•Service Employees Inernational Union (SEIU) of California
•United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Western States Council
•International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), Northern California District Council
•Central Labor Council of Butte-Glenn Counties (AFL-CIO)
•Communications Workers of America (CWA), Local 9415
•Instituto Laboral De La Raza
•Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), San Francisco Chapter
•Sign Displays, Local 510
•Michael Hardeman, Business Representative, Sign Displays, Local 510
•John Roe, UFCW, Local 5*
•Dan Rush, UFCW, Local 5*
•Brian Webster, Staff Assistant, Instituto Laboral De La Raza
Faith Leaders
•California Council of Churches IMPACT
•Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative
•Karen Gilman, Women of Temple Israel of Hollywood*
•Rev. Bryan Griem, Pastor of Montrose Community Church*, Montrose, CA
•Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn, Clergy Against Prohibition*
•Jane Marcus, Ph.D., Board Member, Women of Reform Judaism*, Palo Alto, CA
•The Rev. Canon Mary Moreno Richardson, Episcopal Diocese of San Diego*
•Curtis D. Robinson, Sr., President, Girls Inc, WCCC*, Richmond, CA
•Dennis Shields, Minister, The Religion of Jesus Church*, Captain Cook,